Sophomore Kent Emanuel struck out seven and did not walk a batter as the No. 6 Tar Heels claimed the series opener at No. 17 Clemson Friday afternoon by a 4-3 margin. Chaz Frank and Tommy Coyle paced the offense with two hits apiece, while Colin Moran drove in a pair of runs on the day. The victory gave head coach Mike Fox his 600th career win at UNC.
Carolina struck in the very first inning as the Tar Heels were able to put the Tigers on their heels from the get go. Chaz Frank opened the game with a single to center before making his way to third base on a single from Tommy Coyle.
With runners at the corners and nobody out Colin Moran lifted a ball to right field that allowed Frank to score from third and give Emanuel a one run cushion before setting foot on the mound.
Emanuel cruised through the Clemson order the first time around as the southpaw racked up four strikeouts through three hitless innings.
Clemson’s Kevin Brady bounced back from the shaky first inning and retired the Tar Heels in order over the next four frames to keep his team in the game.
Clemson nearly broke the game open in the fourth as three of the first four batters reached against Emanuel. The sophomore buckled down and got Spencer Kieboom looking before getting Joe Costigan to pop out weakly to Mike Zolk at second base to end the threat.
Clemson eventually knotted things up in the fifth as a lead off double by Jason Stolz preceded a seeing-eye single through the left side by Garrett Boulware to score Stolz and tie the game at 1-1.
The Tar Heels eventually solved Brady in the top of the sixth. After a ground out opened the inning, Parks Jordan was hit by a Brady offering to turn the lineup over and spark a Tar Heel rally.
Seeing Brady for a third time, Chaz Frank dropped a single into right field to move Jordan into scoring position for Tommy Coyle who doubled into the right center field gap to score Jordan and put Carolina back in front, 2-1.
After flying out and grounding out in his previous at bats, Colin Moran slapped the first offering he saw into center field to score Frank from third and up the Carolina lead to 3-1. Jacob Stallings then turned on a pitch and blasted a single past the third baseman to cap off a three-run sixth for the Tar Heels.
The Tigers answered back in the bottom half of the sixth as the lead off man reached due to a Tar Heel miscue and reigning ACC Player of the Week Richie Shaffer made the Tar Heels pay with a RBI triple to right field.
Following a strikeout by Emanuel of Phil Pohl, Spencer Kieboom weakly grounded out but the ball was hit to the right side allowing Shaffer to score and make it 4-3.
Emanuel worked a scoreless seventh before making way for R.C. Orlan in the eighth. Shaffer tallied a lead off single against Orlan before the left-hander picked up a running catch by Parks Jordan in left and pop out to Zolk at second.
A walk to pinch hitter Jay Baum signaled the end of the day for Orlan as Michael Morin came on for the four-out save. Morin struck out Stolz looking to end the eighth before a tense ninth inning.
Pinch hitter Dominic Attanasio singled to left to open the ninth before departing for a pinch runner. A sacrifice bunt brought lead off man Thomas Brittle to the plate with the tying run at second base. Brittle went to the opposite field and slapped a ball into the left center field gap but Chaz Frank was able to track it down for the second out of the inning.
A 10-pitch battle between Morin and Steve Wilkerson that resulted in only a 1-2 count ended when an inside pitch from Morin hit Wilkerson putting a pair of runners on base.
Morin issued a four-pitch walk to Shaffer to load the bases as cleanup man Phil Pohl stepped in. Morin worked his way into a pitcher’s friendly count of 1-2 before getting Pohl swinging on a change up for the final out of the game.
The save was Morin’s fifth of the year and third in as many games after closing the door on Davidson Tuesday and Elon on Wednesday.
Emanuel notched the win as he improved to 4-0 on the year and has won 11 consecutive decisions, the fifth longest streak in the country.
The top four hitters hit .500 on the day for the Tar Heels as the quartet of Chaz Frank, Tommy Coyle, Colin Moran and Jacob Stallings 6-for-12 at the dish with three runs scored and all four RBI.
The win gave head coach Mike Fox his 600th career win as the Tar Heel skipper and made him just the eighth coach in ACC history to register 600 wins at an ACC institution.
Game two is set for 2 p.m. Saturday and will feature Tar Heel right-hander Chris Munnelly against Clemson right-hander Dominic Leone. The game will be shown live on ESPN3 and TarHeelBlue.com will provide an audio broadcast.